James Gray, MP North Wiltshire, and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions, yesterday welcomed Expedition Ice Maiden to Parliament to celebrate their accomplishment of becoming the first all-female team to ski coast-to-coast across Antarctica.
At a meeting of the All-Party Group, Mr Gray admitted: “There were many, including myself, who were sceptical that the ‘Ice Maidens’ would be able to complete a journey that has defeated so many others, especially since none of them had any experience of the polar regions before they started”.
“But I am the first to hold my hands up and say ‘I was wrong’. What the ‘Ice Maidens’ did is simply extraordinary, and their achievement really does stand as a testament to the incredible levels of endurance, mental determination, and teamwork that exists among women serving in the British Army and Army Reserve, and indeed across all our Armed Forces”.
Expedition Ice Maiden was the brainchild of Major Nics Weatherill, an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps, who was inspired to lead an all-women Antarctic expedition ten years ago. Together with Major Natalie Taylor, also of the Royal Army Medical Corps, they picked a six-strong team from more than 250 applicants from within the Army and Army Reserve, after a gruelling two year training and selection process.
The ‘Ice Maidens’ set off on their expedition on 20 November last year, and after first reaching the South Pole, completed their record-breaking feat, having covered more than 1,000 miles on skis, on 20 January, arriving days ahead of schedule, and without any significant injuries to report.
Throughout, the ‘Ice Maidens’ also gathered important scientific data to support medical and psychological research on women under endurance in extreme conditions. They now hope to inspire other women to find their own expeditionary spirit, both within the military and beyond.